Posted in A-F Grading, Evaluations, IREAD-3, ISTEP, retention, Testing, vouchers

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Test – 2017

ISTEP is still doing damage to Indiana students, teachers, and schools. The promise to end the mess that is the State of Indiana’s testing program was just political deception in order to assuage voters during the last election cycle. The election is over and we have elected the same folks who have been dumping education “reform” policies on the children of Indiana for the last dozen years. They have grown the importance of ISTEP into a bludgeon to punish low income children, their teachers, and their schools. The pretense of the test being a tool to analyze children’s progress has all but disappeared.

Public outcry against the test inspired former Governor Pence to form a team to find an alternative, but it was led by political appointees and some educators on the panel had their voices overruled by the sound of cash clinking into test-makers’ (aka political donors) wallets. Others gave up, apparently thinking, “This is the best we’ll get.”

Nevertheless, the recommendations of the panel were for a shorter test with quicker turnaround. The recommendations also called for a two year window to plan for the changes…in the meantime, the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad test continues.

ISTEP will involve too many hours of student instructional time – twice during the school year (thrice for third graders who are also subject to being punished by IREAD-3 for not learning quickly enough). ISTEP will still be responsible for teacher evaluations and A-F school grades even though it was designed only to evaluate student knowledge. So much for any rules of testing which say that tests should only be used to evaluate what they were designed to evaluate – in this case student achievement.

Maybe we ought to try education policies which have actually been shown to be effective. Let’s do this instead…

  • End the A-F Grading system for schools. A letter grade does not reflect the climate or quality of a school.
  • Stop using tests to evaluate teachers. There are other, better professional evaluation tools out there (see this report, by Linda Darling-Hammond, et al.)
  • End IREAD-3 and any student evaluation process by which students are retained in grade. Retention doesn’t work. Intensive early intervention does. See here, here, and here.
  • If standardized tests must be used, use those tests which can return student achievement information in a timely manner so teachers can use the information in their instruction.
  • Better yet, don’t use standardized tests at all. With the millions of dollars saved by not purchasing standardized tests, provide early intervention funds to schools with significant numbers of at-risk students.
  • Your suggestion here: __________
✏️✏️✏️
Posted in David Berliner, Evaluations, ISTEP, Lead, poverty, reform, Testing, Uncategorized

Where Toxins Meet Testing

ISTEP

Indiana’s state test, the ISTEP, is misused in the same way many states misuse standardized tests. It’s used to grade schools on an A to F scale and it’s used to determine which teachers get bonuses, which are deemed unsatisfactory, and which are to be fired. (I suppose that it’s also possible that in some places it’s used to see how well students have learned the state standards, but I doubt the state really cares about that.) In addition, another test, the IREAD-3, is misused to retain third grade students who are struggling with reading.

Currently the state is struggling over the ISTEP. A committee looked into problems with the test and made recommendations. Last year’s tests were so screwed up that the legislature agreed to not hold schools and teachers accountable for the results. For the results to be so bad that even Indiana’s “reformist” legislature “pauses accountability,” you know it must be bad.

The committee was charged with coming up with something that didn’t have as many problems as the ISTEP. That task was not accomplished.

‘ISTEP’ Name May Change, But Test Itself May Not For 2 More Years

“We need about two-and-a-half to three years to get a new test that is sound, based on our standards, thought out and vetted clearly through the education system,” says Sen. Dennis Kruse, chair of the Senate committee on education. “That’ll [be] a better test at the end of that time.”

…Rep. Bob Behning, chair of the House committee on education, wants the board to extend that contract. If extended, it would leave ISTEP+ in place through the 2018-19 school year.

The test is a failure, yet it has high stakes consequences for schools, teachers, and students. So, according to the chairs of both the Senate (Kruse) and House (Behning) education committees, we should keep using it.

TEACHER BONUS PAY BASED ON SCHOOL’S FAMILY INCOME

In the area of teacher bonus pay, the results of the state testing shows exactly what one would expect. Those teachers who work in wealthy districts have students who score higher on the ISTEP, and therefore get larger bonuses. In an earlier post, I wrote that

…standardized test scores measure family income. So when you base a teacher “bonus” plan on student standardized test scores you get a plan that favors teachers of the wealthy over teachers of the poor.

And that’s just what happened here.

Indiana’s wealthiest districts get most teacher bonus pay

Data released Wednesday by the Indiana Department of Education shows Carmel Clay Schools leading the state in the most performance money per teacher at more than $2,400. Zionsville Community Schools came in second at more than $2,200, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Comparatively, Indianapolis Public Schools will receive nearly $130 per teacher. Wayne Township Schools will see among the lowest payments, at just more than $40 per teacher.

The amount of the “bonus” doesn’t prove that teachers in high-poverty schools aren’t as good as teachers in low-poverty schools. It is just more proof that family income determines school success.*

TOXIC ENVIRONMENTS

One (of many) out-of-school factors which contributes to lowered academic achievement of children in poverty is an environment filled with toxins. Pollutants such as mercury, PCBs, toxic pesticides, and air pollution are all factors contributing to the health and brain function of children living in high-poverty areas. The most prevalent problem is, of course, lead.

In 2009, David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University, wrote in Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

It is now understood that there is no safe level of lead in the human body, and that lead at any level has an impact on IQ.

The Centers for Disease Control sets the “safe lead exposure” levels and recently has suggested that the “safe” level should be lowered.

CDC considers lowering threshold level for lead exposure

The CDC adjusts its threshold periodically as nationwide average levels drop. The threshold value is meant to identify children whose blood lead levels put them among the 2.5 percent of those with the heaviest exposure.

“Lead has no biological function in the body, and so the less there is of it in the body the better,” Bernard M Y Cheung, a University of Hong Kong professor who studies lead data, told Reuters. “The revision in the blood lead reference level is to push local governments to tighten the regulations on lead in the environment.”

The federal agency is talking with state health officials, laboratory operators, medical device makers and public housing authorities about how and when to implement a new threshold.

…Any change in the threshold level carries financial implications. The CDC budget for assisting states with lead safety programs this year was just $17 million, and many state or local health departments are understaffed to treat children who test high.

In other words, according to the CDC, the “safe” level is whatever level the bottom 2.5% of American children exhibit. The actual “safe” level is much lower (in fact, the only “safe” level of lead in a child’s system is 0.00), but the cost of reducing lead levels in every child in America is too high.

Children attending schools in high poverty areas are exposed to lead at a much higher rate than in low poverty areas.

Children suffer from lead poisoning in 3,000 U.S. neighborhoods

A new study of public health records has discovered 3,000 neighborhoods in America where children suffer from lead poisoning. The study, by the Reuters news agency, found lead poisoning twice and even four times higher than what was seen in the recent contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

That exposure has an impact on school success. Again, Berliner…

The neurological damage caused by lead pollution has been common knowledge for about a century, but even over recent decades, tragic effects such as this have been documented in families and communities around the world. Even after some obvious sources of lead in the environment were finally banned, reducing the numbers of children showing effects, too many children in the United States are still affected.

MAKING A CONNECTION

Our overuse and misuse of testing during the last few decades has led to over identifying schools in high poverty areas as “failing” without any regard for environmental toxins. Take the case of East Chicago schools…

Turnaround Meetings for Gary and East Chicago Schools

“If the school does receive a sixth F, and we expect those grades to come out this winter, then the board can begin looking at what options it wants to if any, take,” said [State Board of Education chief of staff, Brian] Murphy.

At the same time, the schools being labeled as “failing” exist in an area where lead poisoning is ubiquitous.

East Chicago Lead Contamination Forces Nearly 1,200 from Homes

Both the EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are trying to deal with the contamination and moving residents, but the two agencies aren’t exactly working together well. The mayor of East Chicago and the residents are also concerned about how the EPA handled the situation and worried about the long-term ramifications of lead exposure as well as the costs of moving.

Do legislators read newspapers? Are they aware that 1) lead poisoning causes learning problems and 2) the so called “failing” schools are in areas with a high lead exposure? Why hasn’t there been an outcry blaming the low test scores on the lead poisoning of East Chicago children? Can you guess how big a “bonus” teachers in East Chicago schools got this year?*

A Strange Ignorance: The role of lead poisoning in failing schools

“The education community has not really understood the dimensions of this because we don’t see kids falling over and dying of lead poisoning in the classroom. But there’s a very large number of kids who find it difficult to do analytical work or [even] line up in the cafeteria because their brains are laden with lead.”

As a consequence, teachers and school systems get blamed for what is beyond their control. The legislature can’t (or won’t) see the connection between the two situations, and children’s futures, and their future contributions to the state, are damaged by their environment.

Legislators and “reformers” should quit placing the blame on schools, teachers, and children through punitive legislation aimed at “fixing” low achievement. It’s the state’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for all citizens…including those who don’t have enough money to buy lobbyists.

When the legislature assumes its share of responsibility for “failing” to provide safe environmental conditions in our communities, and for “failing” to address the state’s child poverty rate, then…maybe…we can start to talk about “failing” schools.

~~~

East Chicago ANOTHER Race-Based Lead Poisoning

…with lead pipes it’s like a recall on a product, but nobody wants to go back to the manufacturer and say, “Hey, you’ve made a mistake. You’re poisoning people.” We’ll recall a vehicle, but we won’t recall a pipe that is lead…a lead pipe that people are consuming water through. It’s part of their daily consumption.

…We’ll also recall leaded paint. But we’re not recalling leaded pipes.

~~~

*Data on the Teacher Performance Grants can be found on the Indiana Department of Education site. Click here to download a spreadsheet for each school district in Indiana. Pay special attention to the number of special education districts at the $0 end of the spreadsheet.

For demographic data on each school district see Indiana School District Demographic Characteristics. Note the family poverty rates for the school districts mentioned above: Carmel Clay=3.5%, Zionsville=3.1%, Indianapolis Public Schools=26.8%, and Wayne Township=14.7%.

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Posted in A-F Grading, ALEC, Article Medleys, DeVos, Evaluations, NewYear, Religion, Teaching Career, Testing

2016 Medley #34: Happy New Year

Happy New Year, Real Life Classrooms,
Religion in Public Schools, ALEC,
School Grades, Betsy DeVos

WRAPPING UP 2016

This is the 93rd and last post to this blog of 2016.

It’s common to wrap up a year in “top ten” lists and such. But a calendar year is a human construct built around the cycle of seasons, and good and bad things happen every year. We all have successes and failures…triumphs and tragedies…joys and sorrows.

A lot has been made recently of the number of celebrities who died in 2016, and it’s true that there were famous people who died this year, just like every year. However, science blogger Greg Laden makes it clear that of the last 7 years, 2016 has had the fewest celebrity deaths.

It’s true that some of the celebrity deaths in 2016 were to people who were “too young to die” (Christina Grimmie, 22 and Anton Yelchin, 27) – artists who were just beginning to make their mark on popular culture. On the other hand, there were many who had lived long, productive lives (Elie Wiesel, 87, Noel Neill, 95 and Abe Vigoda, 94).

My point is not to minimize the importance of anyone’s loss at the death of a friend, relative, or cultural icon, but to suggest that 2016 is like any other year, with its share of sadness and tragedy.

The Guardian suggests that the emotional response to 2016 celebrity deaths is exacerbated by technology

There may not, in fact, have been an unusual number of celebrity deaths this year, but they seem to have been much more salient than before. Part of this must be the result of the growing reach and responsiveness of digital media. Technology makes it possible to observe and react to a distant readership almost as accurately and immediately as an actor can respond to their audience in a theatre. Sudden emotional impulses are amplified with astonishing speed across the internet just as they can be in a crowd. Each apparently solitary smartphone user is really sharing other people’s emotion as well as their own.

It’s not just emotions that are shared in this way. It’s memories as well. The generations of middle-aged people along with all their children and grandchildren have experienced a kind of collectivisation of childhood. This was a historic shift. Before the mass media, childhood memories were shared among very small groups, and anchored to particular places. But for the last 60 years, children in the west, and increasingly elsewhere, have grown up in front of televisions, and many of the most vivid characters of their childhood and adolescence were actors or singers.

Each year is also filled with events which elicit our emotional responses…events like: family occasions (births, weddings, etc), sporting events, and – dare I mention it – political contests.

The path of humanity through history is a path of emotional responses to events in our lives. Joy and sorrow are natural human responses and each is balanced by the other.

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

REAL LIFE CLASSROOMS

“Reformers” are often strangers to public school classrooms, either because they haven’t been in one since childhood, or because they were never in one at all. Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan never attended and never taught in a public school. His only experience with public education was as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools – where he got no first hand classroom experience and as a parent of public school children after he was already appointed Secretary of Education.

The new nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is likewise devoid of any public education experience. She never attended a public school. She never taught in a public school. Her children never attended a public school. How is she qualified to lead the federal department charged with supporting America’s public schools?

Real schools are peopled with real children and real teachers…real support personnel and real administrators. Their voices need to be guiding public education in the US.

Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Children

I teach first grade in the Chicago Public Schools. I know my job well, and I am actually very good at it (according to all the Christmas cards from children I just opened). And this is what I can tell you, in spite of the politics and policy of education that get harmfully thrown around – the most important part of this job is to keep children safe, and care for them deeply so they can live the lives they were meant to live.

The Only Subjects That Matter

I’m an English teacher, but I will argue till your ears are blue that history is the single most important subject of all and the root of all other education.

6 Ways in Which Teaching Is Nothing Like the Movies

It doesn’t work that way in real life. Maybe your kids do love you. Maybe most of them look forward to your class and work hard and achieve things they never thought were possible. But it’s not all of them, dammit! There’s always that one who fights everything you do. And there are always six or seven who sit quietly in the back of the class, and you never know whether they’re learning or sleeping or secretly plotting your violent overthrow. Yeah, sometimes the bad kid ends up being your greatest ally, just like in the movies. Other times he takes his pants off in your class. Mysteriously enough, often it’s both.

RELIGION IN THE SCHOOLS

Can students pray in public schools? Can teachers say ‘Merry Christmas’? What’s allowed — and what’s forbidden.

How do you handle religion in your classroom? Many teachers don’t understand what is and isn’t allowed in the classrooms.

“Can students pray inside their public school buildings? Can teachers say “Merry Christmas” to their students? Can religious music be played in public schools? Yes, yes and yes. There has been a great deal of misunderstanding about what is allowed and not allowed when it comes to religious expression in public schools…”

Students are allowed religious expression in public schools unless it disrupts the education process. In other words, they can pray before they eat, before tests, at recess, and at other times during the day. They can talk about their own religious beliefs. They can even share them with others. What they can’t do is disrupt the class with religious preaching or interrupt the education of others or themselves. Adults in the school are not allowed to direct religious expression.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that kids can’t pray in school. What the Court has done — and continues to do — is to strike down school-sponsored prayers and devotional exercises as violations of religious liberty.

As a result of those decisions, school officials may not impose prayers, or organize prayer events, or turn the school auditorium into the local church for religious celebrations.

See also: Religion in the Public Schools: A Road Map for Avoiding Lawsuits and Respecting Parents’ Legal Rights

ALEC

ALEC politicians cut backroom deals to float voucher legislation in several states

Follow the money…from private schools, from charter school edupreneurs, to politicians’ campaign coffers.

State politicians across the nation are skirting ethics laws and making backroom deals with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to trade their votes away in 2017 to corporate special interests pushing voucher legislation.

GRADES

Opinion: What school grades really say

Students are not widgets. They cannot be standardized. Using the same bar to measure two students from diverse backgrounds is unfair, unrealistic, and unproductive. Using student tests to compare schools is equally unreasonable. Tests were made to measure student achievement, not school or teacher quality.

…factors outside of the school have a dramatic impact on academic performance, making so-called accountability measures such as school grades useless as a determinant of school and teacher quality. If we were serious in Indiana about improving educational opportunities and outcomes for all Hoosier students, we would stop focusing on standardized tests and school grades and listen to the professionals who work most closely with our children on a daily basis—their teachers. If we would allow teachers to do their work without interference and arbitrary judgements, what we would see would not be the same in every classroom or for every child, and that is as it should be. Education is a people business, not a product business, and it is time we start trusting our people.

See also: Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

School grades still reflect student demographics

How long will it be before “reformers” admit that standardized tests measure family income?

It was true five years ago and it’s still true today. The grades that Indiana assigns to schools say more about the students the schools serve than how effective the schools are.

A change in the grading system this year was a step in the right direction, but not a big enough step to make the grades fair or credible. Schools that get high grades are still more likely than not to serve few students from poor families. Those that get low grades are almost certainly high-poverty schools.

Op-ed: Indiana fails test on teacher bonuses

We know – and have known for a long time – that standardized test scores measure family income. So when you base a teacher “bonus” plan on student standardized test scores you get a plan that favors teachers of the wealthy over teachers of the poor.

Perhaps the legislators and policy makers who put this plan into action were ignorant of the facts of testing. Perhaps they did so because they collected campaign contributions from pro-test groups and testing corporations. Whatever the reason, they shouldn’t be shocked at the result.

The policy is so flawed that the result was highly predictable. Gov. Mike Pence and his minions in the legislature boasted in 2013 that this would reward highly proficient teachers and sort out (shame?) the less effective.

In effect, it undermined the poorer districts and gave to the wealthy, shattering inner-city morale and contributing to a teacher shortage. It was a business model designed to make schools compete for resources, ignoring two important premises: (1) that excellent teaching is a collaborative effort, and, (2) competition creates winners but also losers. When it comes to our youth and their right to an education, we cannot afford to have losers.

NOMINATED SOE IS UNFIT: SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW

Letter: DeVos unfit for education post

Among the people who were considered by President-elect Donald Trump for the position of US Secretary of Education…

Michelle Rhee is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. She taught for three years, was the chancellor of DC Public Schools for one term, and put in place procedures that led to widespread cheating.

Tony Bennett is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. As State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indiana, he manipulated test score data to favor political donors and charter school owners. He also allegedly used government resources for his own campaign purposes.

Williamson Evers is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. He never taught in a public school. He was never an administrator in a public school. His only public school activity has been to cause damage. He is a self-proclaimed “education expert” for no reason.

Luke Messer is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. His only education experience is as a legislator making rules for schools without having to live with the consequences as an educator. He is an attorney.

As unqualified as those four candidates are, they are all infinitely more qualified than the ultimate nominee for the position. Betsy DeVos is unfit to have anything to do with America’s public schools. Not only does she have no experience, unlike some of the names above, but she has actively worked to destroy public schools as an act of faith. She has promoted charter schools while demanding that they be allowed to function with no public accountability. She has worked to transfer public funds into private pockets. You want to see how well her policies have worked for public schools? Take a look at Detroit.

On Nov. 23, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Betsy DeVos to serve as secretary of education in his administration. From what we have seen in her home state of Michigan, DeVos is unfit for the Cabinet position. Her family has heavily funded a failed push for constitutional change to allow for vouchers, which allow taxpayer money to go to private schools.

Vouchers drain our public schools of the money they so badly need. DeVos also supports the rapid expansion of charter schools and online schools with minimal regulation. We’ve seen in Ohio with the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow how minimally regulated charters steal our children’s education and enrich business people.

Meet Betsy DeVos: Your New US Secretary of Education

Meet Betsy DeVos: Alphabetical Listing

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Posted in Accountability, Evaluations, Play Kid's Work, Public Ed, Quotes, Testing

December Quotes

Random quotes from 10 years (plus 2016) of Decembers on this blog. Quotes are from me, unless otherwise noted.

SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS

2016 Medley #31

from Arthur H. Camins

…it is democratically governed public schools that have made America great — not private schools and not charter schools. We all know that we can love what is imperfect. We need to strengthen the marriage between public schools and equity, not a divorce.

TEST SCORES ARE SOCIETY’S REFLECTION

2015
Berliner in Australia: The Testing Fiasco

from David C. Berliner

Blaming institutions and individual teachers directs our gaze away from the inequality and poverty that actually gives rise to those scores. In the same way a magician can divert attention of an entire audience when they make a person or a rabbit disappear.

CAN WE JUDGE TEACHERS BY THE SUCCESS OF THEIR STUDENTS?

2014
Evaluate Harvard

During his college days Harvard should have trained Duncan in the correct use of tests. They apparently didn’t.

I think that means that Harvard has failed in its preparation of social scientists and Harvard students shouldn’t be allowed any federal grants.

TEST SCORES ARE SOCIETY’S REFLECTION

2013
Our Nation is More Than a Test Score

from The AFT

One thing PISA research makes clear is that poverty’s effect on educational equity matters.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS HELP ALL OF US

2012
Darling-Hammond on American Education

from Linda Darling-Hammond

We all now have to care about the education of every person’s children. It’s not going to be enough to say my kids got educated because for every person who is not in the labor force, not paying taxes, not contributing to our health care system, to our Social Security, the social bargain that we have as Americans cannot be maintained. All of us have a vested interest in every child being educated, and yet kids who we wouldn’t spend $10,000 on to get them good teaching in Oakland, when they were second graders…to be sure they could learn to read…we’re spending $50,000 on them in prison ten years later.

NO MORE LOSERS

2011
The Most Important Speech on Education in Years

from Diane Ravitch

The free market works very well in producing goods and services, but it works through competition. In competition, the weakest fall behind. The market does not produce equity. In the free market, there are a few winners and a lot of losers. Some corporate reformers today advocate that schools should be run like a stock portfolio: Keep the winners and sell the losers. Close schools where the students have low scores and open new ones. But this doesn’t help the students who are struggling. No student learns better because his school was closed; closing schools does not reduce the achievement gap. Poor kids get bounced from school to school. No one wants the ones with low scores because they threaten the reputation and survival of the school.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL

2010
NY Student Play Banned

from a student play (N.Y.) on school reform

Tireseus (the blind prophet): Do you really think closing schools is the answer?

Chancellor: The school is failing.

Tireseus: Or maybe you are failing the school. Why not give them what they need to succeed?

Chancellor: But schools must be held accountable.

Tireseus: And what about you, Chancellor? Who’s holding you accountable?

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL

2009 (November)
What Are You Doing Wrong?

The obsession with testing is so that schools will be “accountable” to the greater society. Where is the society’s accountability, though? Why is it that we can spend billions of dollars on a contrived war, and ignore the “economy gap” in our society? Why is it that educators have to accept No Child Left Behind to eliminate the “soft bigotry of low expectations” yet local, state and national governments don’t have to be accountable for the “soft bigotry of urban neglect?”

ON TEACHING

2008
Top 10 Reasons Why Teaching Jobs Based on Test Scores Is A Bad Idea

8. Teaching jobs based on test scores will contribute to cutthroat competition among teachers for positions most likely to produce the best test results.

PLAY IS CHILDREN’S WORK

2007
Kindergarten and Developmentally Appropriate Education

Play is children’s work. They learn how to live in the world, how to get along, to solve problems, and to share by playing. They can’t learn these things, though, unless they are allowed to get up from their chairs and interact with each other.

Skills based, academically oriented kindergartens are now the rule rather than the exception. Developmentally appropriate practice does not exist in some places any more. Does this help children? No long term studies have been done at this point, but my hunch is that by taking the opportunity to grow at their own rate away from children we are asking many of them to do what they can’t do…we’re asking them to touch the ceiling without a ladder.

MISUSE OF TESTING

2006
Leave this law behind…

At one time standardized tests were designed to show how students were progressing and what areas they were weak in. The tests were designed to be used diagnostically…to guide teaching and learning.

The tests are still designed to do that…and, in some places, they are even used correctly. But even schools which use standardized test scores correctly are having their scores published and compared to others.

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Posted in A-F Grading, Article Medleys, EdTech, Evaluations, Testing

2016 Medley #32: Still Testing After All These Years

Testing, Teacher Evaluations, EdTech,
A-F Grading System, Classroom Grades

TESTING MADNESS

In America we misuse standardized tests. We grade school systems, schools, teachers, and students, and no amount of “tweaking” testing programs will change the fact that using tests as a high stakes measurement is inappropriate.

The overuse and misuse of testing hasn’t improved education in the US, so why do we continue to do it? The answer is simple. Money.

When we decide to focus on student learning instead of trying to make a buck off of children’s education, or solve social problems with test scores, we might begin to improve education in America.

No comparing school grades to previous years

Tests measure income, pure and simple. We’ve known it for years, and it hasn’t changed in years.

…there’s still a strong correlation between grades and family income. Nearly all schools in Hamilton County — one of the lowest-poverty areas in the country — get A’s and B’s. And of the 89 Indiana schools that got F’s, over half were in the urban districts of Indianapolis Public Schools, Gary and South Bend.

Teacher bonus inequity shouldn’t be a surprise

When you have a teacher evaluation plan based on standardized tests, like Indiana’s, you reinforce the economic segregation of public schools by rewarding teachers for working in high income areas.

Schools in areas of high poverty need good teachers, but where’s the incentive for teachers to work in those schools?

Why is the US one of only three countries in the OECD who spend more money on the education of wealthy children than of poor children?

Indiana used to provide more resources for high poverty districts…one of the few states who did…until last year’s legislature turned that around.

Here in Indiana we pay teachers extra for good test scores. Guess which teachers get the big bonuses?

…The results, released last week, are what you’d expect. The biggest awards go to suburban districts where there are few low-income families. In Carmel Clay Schools, one of the lowest-poverty areas in the nation, the average award is estimated to be $2,422 per teacher…

At the other end of the scale, teachers in Indianapolis Public Schools will get an average of $128.40 In Indianapolis Wayne Township, they will get $42.50 In Kokomo, $39.79. In East Chicago, zero.

…To say this is unfair doesn’t begin to describe it. No one can argue with a straight face that teachers employed in wealthy districts deserve huge bonuses but teachers who dedicate their lives to helping poor children should get a slap in the face. Yet that’s the program the legislature gave us.

The new standardized testing craze to hit public schools

Changing the medium over which tests are administered doesn’t remove the damage caused by high stakes. And it further exacerbates the differences between schools in wealthy districts and schools in poor districts.

Parents Across America’s report on the dangers of EdTech suggests six questions parents can ask, including: which devices and programs are being used, how much time children spend on electronic devices, and what kind of data is being collected. Parents should also ask whether assessments are mostly multiple choice, how often they are administered, if some students (e.g., students with disabilities or English learners) are tested more frequently, and who controls the data and how it is being used.

Armed with detailed information, parents can fight back against technology misuse and overuse.

A failing grade: Folly of state’s school-assessment system apparent at even a cursory glance

Why stop at grading teachers based on test scores when you can misuse standardized tests even further by grading schools? Indiana jumped on the Jeb Bush bandwagon to grade schools in 2011 and while the A-F grading system hasn’t done anything to improve schools we keep using it.

The A-F Grading System continues to show us that wealthy students score higher on the tests than poor students. Did we need to spend $800 million on testing over the last 30 years to learn that?

Under Gov. Mitch Daniels and Superintendent Tony Bennett in 2011, the state board threw out the descriptive labels and adopted a letter-grade system, a practice championed by Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Indiana’s new approach was broken from the start. It was revealed in 2013 that Bennett privately ordered staff to change the metrics so that dozens of school grades improved. A charter school operated by one of the state superintendent’s biggest campaign donors saw its grade boosted from a C to an A.

In spite of repeated problems and unsuccessful efforts to develop a valid grading formula, Indiana policymakers have refused to give up on their quest to attach grades to schools.

Why?

Beyond Grades: How Am I Doing?

During my 35 years of teaching (20 of those in gen-ed classrooms) I consistently struggled with grades. I would keep track of student scores, average them out, and then, at the end of the “grading period” figure out what grade all those numbers represented. More often than not I would comment to myself that “I really would like to say more” about a child’s learning than just a letter grade and a quick general comment on a report card, but with the time constraints of the structure of education in the US, I was rarely able to do more than just write down the grade and move on to the next.

Since I’m retired, I can now admit that sometimes I would “embellish” or “fudge” on grades because of the child’s effort, actual learning, or some other reason, and in that way I would rationalize to myself that the grade reflected the actual progress of the child. It would be nice if teachers had time to actually analyze their teaching and their students’ learning.

I wonder how they figure grades in Finland?

Parents believe grades have some meaning, primarily because we have tried to convince them that they do over the past 150 years. We all know better. We need to tell parents we were wrong, We need to show them there are better ways to report on learning.

Click here for part one of this series by Russ Walsh.

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Posted in Evaluations, Lead, Pence, Politicians, Politics, Quotes, reform, Ritz, Testing

Random Quotes – July, 2016

THE LIE OF “REFORM”

Contrary to many “reformers,” I believe that:

Unlike many “reformers” I have actually spent time working as a professional educator in public schools (from 1976 through 2010, and then as a volunteer through 2016).

Public education in America can improve, but the “test and punish” methods of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top is not the way to do it. Public schools, and public school teachers, need support, not derision.

The number one problem facing public education in the United States is the fact that more than half of America’s public school students live in poverty. We have one of the highest levels of child poverty of any advanced nation on Earth. Solving the poverty problem would go a long way towards ending low student achievement.

From Stephen Krashen

Forget fancy evaluation schemes

Forget fancy evaluation schemes. Work on the cause, not the effect: feed the animal, don’t waste time and money designing fancier ways of weighing it.

Open Letter to Fellow NC Public School Teachers – What We Do Cannot Really Be Measured

From Stu Egan

…you cannot simply measure students and teachers by numbers and random variables. You measure them by their personal success and growth, and much of that cannot be ascertained by impersonal assessments.

Nor can a teacher’s effectiveness truly be measured by “student achievement”. There is more, so much more, working within the student/teacher dynamic.

From Russ Walsh

Don’t Look Behind the Curtain: The Education Reform Switcheroo

…the true motivation of corporate education reform: to try to get people to focus on schools as the problem, so that they won’t look behind the curtain at the real problem facing the country – income inequity.

America’s Not-So-Broken Education System

From Jack Schneider in The Atlantic

Can the schools do more to realize national ideals around equity and inclusion? Without question. But none of these aims will be achieved by ripping the system apart. That’s a ruinous fiction. The struggle to create great schools for all young people demands swift justice and steady effort, not melodrama and magical thinking.

More on Income Inequality by John Oliver from Last Week Tonight (Warning: NSFW!)

NO EXCUSES

The poisoning of America’s (poor) children continues…

From Mike Klonsky

Wishing I could disrupt a conversation about lead in the water

Wait! You mean that all those tens of thousands of Chicago children who have been drinking leaded water from school drinking fountains and home sinks — mostly poor and children of color — have been disadvantaged by high-stakes PARCC and ISAT testing? Held back from promotion and graduation? College entrance? Their schools facing loss of funding or even closure because of lower test scores in comparison to wealthier, newer schools? Their teachers having their evaluations lowered and merit-pay-based salaries diminished, in large part because their students are exposed to leaded water?

And to top it off, told “no excuses” when they object?

Lead Exposure in Children

POLITICS

Indiana’s Governor, Mike (“smoking doesn’t kill”) Pence, has been blatantly favoring private and privately owned charter schools since his election in 2012. Now that he, along with his supermajority legislature, and his personally appointed state Board of Education, has done what he can to destroy public education in Indiana, he’s ready to move on to bigger and better things. Indiana’s gain is the nation’s loss.

How Gov. Mike Pence worked to undermine the will of Indiana’s voters

From the Glenda Ritz Campaign

“Indiana’s teachers, parents and students can rest a little easier knowing that Mike Pence will now be absent from Indiana and soon be unable to force his political agenda on our classrooms,” said Annie Mansfield, campaign manager.

“In his time as Governor, Mike Pence has consistently put politics before Hoosier students. He created a duplicate education agency through executive order. He turned down tens of millions of dollars in desperately needed pre-K funding because of his extreme political ideology. And he removed the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction as Chair of the State Board of Education, disenfranchising 1.3 million Hoosier voters.

Sing a song of Trumpence

From Fred Klonsky

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Posted in Early Childhood, Evaluations, FirstAmendment, NewOrleans, Politics, poverty, Quotes, TeacherShortage, Teaching Career

More Random Quotes – May 2016

LOBBYISTS

About Those School Lunches…

OpenSecrets.Org tells us this about Lobbying

The primary goal of much of the money that flows through U.S. politics is this: Influence. Corporations and industry groups, labor unions, single-issue organizations – together, they spend billions of dollars each year to gain access to decision-makers in government, all in an attempt to influence their thinking.

Just how much did the top three industries spend on lobbying in 2015?

Total for Pharmaceuticals/Health Products: $230,693,261

Total for Insurance: $156,801,882

Total for Oil and Gas: $129,836,004

Think about those totals when you pay for your medications, your insurance premiums, and the energy needed to power your car and heat your home. How much of your dollars are going to pay for lobbyists who work against your interests?

Which sets the stage for the following simple and important quote…

From Sheila Kennedy

…poor kids don’t have lobbyists…

DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE

The Disturbing Transformation of Kindergarten

We have pushed down the curriculum and now expect kindergarteners to learn what first graders learned a generation ago — and then we blame the children for not learning and their teachers for not teaching.

From Dianemarie

It may satisfy politicians to see children perform inappropriately difficult tasks like trained circus animals. However, if we want our youngest to actually learn, we will demand the return of developmentally appropriate kindergarten.

INVEST IN THE FUTURE

It Takes a Policy

We are only one of three nations in the world who invest more money in schools for our wealthy children than for our poor children. We have one of the highest childhood poverty rates – nearly 25% – of any advanced nation in the world and we know that students who live in poverty have out of school factors which inhibits their achievement.

“Reformist” politicians, instead of taking responsibility for the high levels of poverty in our nation, blame schools and teachers for low achievement.

Instead of investing in our future – our children – we’re wasting tax dollars on privatizing our education system.

From Paul Krugman

America is unique among advanced countries in its utter indifference to the lives of its youngest citizens.

…In other words, if you judge us by what we do, not what we say, we place very little value on the lives of our children, unless they happen to come from affluent families.

…it would indeed be an investment — every bit as much of an investment as spending money to repair and improve our transportation infrastructure. After all, today’s children are tomorrow’s workers and taxpayers. So it’s an incredible waste, not just for families but for the nation as a whole, that so many children’s futures are stunted because their parents don’t have the resources to take care of them as well as they should. And affordable child care would also have the immediate benefit of making it easier for parents to work productively.

NEW ORLEANS

Now reformers want to “give back” New Orleans charters. ‘Can’t avoid democracy forever’.

Local public schools provide more stability than “market forces.”

From Mike Klonsky

…eliminating neighborhood schools has undermined the most vulnerable students by uprooting them from their communities and scattering them to schools citywide.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

The big trouble in Indiana public schools, as explained by a troubled educator

It’s almost as if they purposely wanted to create a teacher shortage.

From school counselor Brenda L. Yoder

“…Yes, the mess in education isn’t just affecting those of us who are in education. First, legislators thought we weren’t doing our job, so they legislated the pay scale so good teachers would get paid more for their efforts. In reality, the legislature has capped teacher salaries, not allowing years of experience or education to fiscally matter. Being a highly effective or effective teacher results in a minuscule stipend, maybe enough to get the brakes fixed on your car.

“Salaries for teachers statewide are stagnant. Your income does not rise over time. Families cannot be supported on a teacher’s salary over time, and yet college costs the same for them as it does to be an engineer.

“I wonder why there’s a teacher shortage…”

STAND UP TO THE MONEY

A master teacher went to court to challenge her low evaluation. What her win means for her profession.

This teacher decided that it was time to take a stand against testing companies and “reformers.”

From Carol Burris

It is time for the madness to stop. It is time for other teachers to stand up and legally challenge their scores. And it is past time for taxpayers to stop these silly measures that cost them millions while enriching test companies and the research firms that produce the teacher scores.

MORE THAN FULL TIME

#TeacherAppreciationWeek? Enough, already.

Teaching is high intensity work and teachers carry their job with them wherever they go, sometimes physically, usually mentally, often emotionally. Most teachers have take-home paperwork…themes, assignments, or tests to grade, but they also bring home the mental and emotional quandaries which they deal with every day in the classroom. While fixing dinner a teacher may think about how to reach the hard to educate child in their classroom. While watching TV a teacher might worry about the child living with a dangerous home life. Most teachers don’t leave the classroom when they go home at night.

From Aubyn Scolnick

Teaching during the school year isn’t a full time job. It’s a full time life.

CONGRESS SHALL MAKE NO LAW…

“His freedom guarantees mine”: J. K. Rowling at the 2016 PEN Literary Gala

Silencing those we disagree with doesn’t help anyone.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…”

That freedom is not available all over the world. In Bangladesh, for example, freedom of speech can be severely punished. In the last few years more than a dozen bloggers – citizen journalists celebrating their own free speech – were murdered because of what they wrote. Self proclaimed “speech police” determined that their words were worthy of a death sentence. The government has tried, weakly, to stop the murders, however, they can’t seem to prevent them. They have even stooped so low as to blame the writers for their own death.

PEN America is a group dedicated to the view that “people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to make it possible for everyone to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others.” This year they honored, among others, British writer J.K. Rowling.

From J.K. Rowling

I find almost everything that Mr. Trump says objectionable. I consider him offensive and bigoted. But he has my full support to come to my country and be offensive and bigoted there.

His freedom to speak protects my freedom to call him a bigot. His freedom guarantees mine. Unless we take that absolute position without caveats or apologies, we have set foot upon a road with only one destination. If my offended feelings can justify a travel ban on Donald Trump, I have no moral ground on which to argue that those offended by feminism or the fight for transgender rights or universal suffrage should not oppress campaigners for those causes. If you seek the removal of freedoms from an opponent simply on the grounds that they have offended you, you have crossed the line to stand alongside tyrants who imprison, torture, and kill on exactly the same justification.

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